Researchers have long touted the benefits of vitamin C, including its immunity-boosting properties. Now, a study that was released today (and that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Philadelphia this spring) demonstrates that the risk of hemorrhagic stroke is lower among people who have normal vitamin C blood levels than among those with low or deficient levels.

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There are two forms of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic stroke is a blockage of a blood vessel supplying the brain, while hemorrhagic stroke is bleeding into or around the brain. The latter is less common than ischemic stroke, but it is also deadlier.

The study compared 65 people who had experienced an intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke, or a blood vessel rupture inside the brain, with 65 healthy people. Of the study’s subjects, 41 percent had normal levels of vitamin C, 45 percent showed depleted levels of vitamin C, and 14 percent were considered deficient in vitamin C. The people who had not experienced strokes were those who had high levels of the vitamin.

Commenting on the study results, researcher Dr. Stéphane Vannier, M.D., of Pontchaillou University Hospital in France, said, "Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol, and being overweight in our study.” Dr. Vannier said that more research is needed, in order to learn specifically how vitamin C can help to lessen stroke risk.

“For example, the vitamin may regulate blood pressure,” said Dr. Vannier.

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Dr. Vannier advised that vitamin C appears to have other benefits, such as the production of collagen, a protein found in bones, skin, and tissues. Vitamin C deficiency has also been linked to heart disease.

This preliminary research, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, adds to earlier studies that also link vitamin C to stroke risk. According to a 2008 University of Cambridge study, people with high levels of vitamin C showed a reduced stroke risk. A 1995 study in the British Medical Journal also found that elderly people with low levels of vitamin C had a greater risk of stroke.

Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, papaya, peppers, broccoli, and strawberries. The recommended daily dose for vitamin C is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women.

Image courtesy of graur codrin /